The irony: Russian-born Elena Rybakina could win Wimbledon

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Wimbledon banned all Russian players from entering the tournament this year, as a way to punish the Russian government for invading Ukraine. Now that Elena Rybakina is in the final, a player who represents Kazakhstan but was born and still officially resides in Moscow is one step away from winning the prestigious title.

Elena Rybakina Wimbledon 2022

In the past 15 years, Kazakhstan, not typically a tennis country, invested substantial funds into the sport and attracted numerous quality players from the nearby countries of the former USSR, most notably from Russia. Due to the lack of adequate support from the Russian Tennis Federation, Elena Rybakina was one of many players to accept the help and support offered by Kazakhstan, so she switched nationalities when she turned 19, only four years ago, in 2018.

At the time she became a Kazakh citizen, Rybakina couldn’t have predicted that the move would allow her to reach her maiden Grand Slam final and possibly win her first major title. Russian players are banned from playing Wimbledon this year, the tournament’s decision greatly criticized and even penalized by the WTA. Besides sanctioning Wimbledon by not awarding ranking points to players participating in the event this year, the WTA has fined the AELTC £207,000 and the LTA £620,000.

Rybakina’s deep run at Wimbledon has brought political questions of what it means to represent a country and highlighted the fruitlessness of punishing players based on their citizenship. During press conferences in London, the 23-year-old was bombarded with intense questions regarding her origin, such as: “In your heart, do you feel Russian, still?” Rybakina continued to emphasize that she’d been representing Kazakhstan already for a long time and kept her answers as neutral as possible.

Rybakina’s WTA player info states that Moscow is her residence and her family still lives in the Russian capital. When faced with questions regarding her residence, Rybakina answered:

“I think I’m based on tour because I’m traveling every week. I think most of the time, I spend on tour. I practice in Slovakia between the tournaments. I had camps in Dubai. So I don’t live anywhere.”

Elena Rybakina faces Ons Jabeur in the 2022 Wimbledon final on Saturday at 2 p.m. local time. Read the women’s singles final match preview.


  1. Bottom line….Wimbledon should not have banned the Russian players. If they wanted to do something, then ban the Russian Tournaments on the WTA/ATP for a year, like they did in China for the Peng Shuai incident. BTW, Zarina Diyas is the only true Kazakh as she was born in Almaty.

  2. I guess the point of banning Russian players is so that the Russian government can’t get any glory out of winning the tournament. So even if she is Russian, as long as she is playing for Kazakhstan then Russia doesn’t get the kudos. However, one might question exactly how she came to play for Kazakhstan in the first place. It sounds like pretty much they bought her. And why would they want to do that? I can’t imagine that tennis has a particularly high priority in Kazakhstan.

  3. I feel sad for this tennis player. As she said in her interviews, “I can’t help where I was born” just as Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Ons Jabeur, Naomi Osaka, Peng Shuai, Brittany Griner, Maria Sharapova, Anna Anisimova, Sebastian Korda, or Garbiñe Muguruza can’t help where they were born (or who they were born to). They are athletes who have worked hard to get where they are and just want to compete for the joy of their sport, the financial gains, and the glory they can bring to themselves, their sport, and to sport history. I just wish we could get past the politics. It’s governments that make political decisions and actions and the media who tries to integrate the two. Let them play!

  4. This is unfortunately for her especially coming from the Western media (I am from the USA). There are plenty of players who represent the USA whose parents came from somewhere else. And if she has family there perhaps it is not safe for her to speak up against her own government.

    However, I do see why some people might not see it this way since she didn’t move to Kazakhstan nor train there so the Kazakh thing seems to only be on paper to get around some technicality.


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